RLWC Pool B: Tonga Overwhelming Favorites To Topple Kiwis at Home

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New Zealand Kiwis Rugby League World Cup Squad Announcement
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 05: New Zealand Kiwis coach David Kidwell poses for a photo following the New Zealand Kiwis Rugby League World Cup Squad Announcement at Rugby League House Museum on October 5, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Big battle looms up in Pool B of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup with Tonga overwhelming favorites to topple Kiwis. They have the squad to match the Kiwis, Samoans and Scots to reach their first ever Cup quarter finals. However, it is how you deliver on the day that matters.

It is the Pool of Death and whoever makes it out will probably reach the semis. Three teams will qualify from this pool and Pool A with a team each from Pool C and Pool D. Here is a breakdown of Pool B.

RLWC Pool B: Tonga Overwhelming Favorites to Topple Kiwis

New Zealand

Moniker: Kiwis | First Test: 1908 – Wales 9 New Zealand 8 (Aberdare, Wales)

Best World Cup results: Winner (2008); Runners Up (1988, 2000, 2013)

Head coach: David Kidwell

The Kiwis have named a revamped side that will be missing Jason Taumalolo and Jesse Bromwich. However, they have called on players who are willing to put all on the line to retain the crown they won in 2008. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Issac Liu and Brad Takirangi will all be debuting at the tourney.

Plenty firepower in the forwards with a very exciting backline have been named by the selectors. It will be a battle of the forwards especially against Tonga and Samoa. However, the showdown with Jason Taumalolo is what the fans will really love to watch, come the World Cup.

New Zealand’s Main Enforcers

Martin Taupau and Adam Blair lead the charge with ‘bad boy’ Russell Packer. They hold the key in nullifying the Tongan and Samoan forward pack. Jared Warea-Hargraves, Ken Bromwich and Elijah Taylor will add dimension to the forward pack.

Game changers: Shaun Johnson has to step up, with him on song the Kiwis will be hard to contain against any opposition.

Thomas Leuluai, Te Maire Martin and Issac Liu have to really step up their ganme especially against the Pacific Islands rivals.

Match winners: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jordan Rapana are big game winners. On form they can lay the foundation for another Kiwis World Cup victory. Simon Mannering on the edges, with Gerald Beale and Jason Nightingale can all bring the rain down on any opposition.

New Zealand RLWC fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – v Samoa (Auckland)
  • 04/11/2017 – v Scotland (Christchurch)
  • 11/11/2017 – v Tonga (Hamilton)

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Samoa

Moniker: Toa Samoa | First Test: Western Samoa 34 Tokelau 12 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

Best World Cup results: Quarter Finals (2000, 2013)

Head coach: Matt Parish

The Samoans will be in contention for a semifinal spot. They have named the players who can take them there on paper but they will need to work together to get there. Big battle looms in Hamilton against the Tongans and Kiwis.

Josh Papali’I has opted to play for Samoa and will assist captain Frank Prtchard in leading the Toa Samoa campaign. It’s a team mixed with youth and experience that will really test the Tongans and Kiwis resolve.

Samoa’s Main Enforcers

Frank Pritchard and Josh Papali’i will be their enforcers together with Sam Tagatese and Leeson Ah Mau. Big battle against Tongan duo of Fifita and Taumalolo but don’t forget the battle with the Kiwis boys in Martin Taupau and Jared Warea-Hargraves.

Game changers: Ben Roberts together with the Paulo brothers are their big game changers. They need to be quick off the ruck and catch the big opposition forwards on their toes.

Match winners: Big center Joey Leilua will be their match winner and if he can supply good balls to the wingers, they can win hearts. Ken Maumalo, Pita Godinet. Tim Lafai, Bunty Afoa and Young Tonumaipea will need to step up to put to use possession supplied by their big forwards.

Toa Samoa RLWC fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – v New Zealand (Auckland)
  • 04/11/2017 – v Tonga (Hamilton)
  • 11/11/2017 – v Scotland (Cairns)

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Scotland

Moniker: Bravehearts | First Test: 13/08/1995 – Scotland 22 Ireland 26 (Dublin, Ireland)

Best World Cup Results: Quarter-Finals (2013)

Head coach: Steve McCormack

Utility Matt Russell and captain Danny Brough will lead the Scottish onslaught against the big three giants of rugby league. The odds are against them but they will fight like the Bravehearts they are. Lachlan Coote and Peter Wallace miss out but they have some fine talents coming through.

Scotland RLWC fixtures:

  • 04/11/2017 – v New Zealand (Christchurch)
  • 11/11/2017 – v Samoa (Cairns)
  • 29/10/2017 – v Tonga (Cairns)

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Tonga

Moniker: Mate Ma’a Tonga

First Test: 1986 – Tonga 34 Western Samoa 16 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

Best World Cup Result:  Group stages (1995, 2000, 2008 and 2013)

Head coach: Kristian Woolf

The Tongans have named a star-studded side that can really win the World Cup for the tiny Pacific Islands Kingdom. They have the firepower from all the sides of the field, a good forward pack with fast finishers. They are the team to beat with Aussies, English and Kiwis. The Tongans have never gone past the group stages in the World Cup

Jason Taumalolo will spearhead their campaign with Andrew Fifita. The side includes former Kangaroos and Kiwis players who have joined allegiance to their homeland.

Tonga’s Main Enforcers

Andrew Fifita, Sika Manu and Sio Siua Taukeiaho will be the big enforcers in the squad. The battle with the Kiwis and Toa Samoa forwards is eagerly awaited. These players on their day can create history for the island kingdom.

Game changers: Look no further than the biggest meters gainer in the NRL Jason Taumalolo to be their biggest game changer. However, Tui Lolohea will provide the biggest threat in the side if not contained.

Match winners: Plenty speed out-wide with the likes of Daniel Tupou, Manu Vatuvei and Michael Jennings. They also have Mahe Fonua, Konrad Hurrell and David Fusitu’a.

Plenty of match winners for Tonga to be honest–it is just playing for 80 minutes!

Tonga RLWC fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – v Scotland (Cairns)
  • 04/11/2017 – v Samoa (Hamilton)
  • 11/11/2017 – v New Zealand (Hamilton)

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Can Tongan Rise to the Occasion in RLWC Pool B?

On paper, they are the team to beat in this pool, beside with the Kiwis. However, it is down to ‘how they are going to play together’. And most of all, how hungry they are.

The Kiwis should qualify top for the playoffs, but it will be interesting who will join them. If an upset occurs, the cat will definitely be thrown in with the pigeons (or Kiwis if you like).

 

Enjoy our other RLWC Pool evaluations here.

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